Shaun White shines in qualifying

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- All the talk of a substandard halfpipe didn't stop Shaun White from opening his Olympics with a huge score.

White racked up a 95.75 in his first qualifying run Tuesday, the top score so far on a day when Olympic organizers originally announced they were eliminating qualifying in hopes of better conditions, then quickly changed their minds.

The course has drawn heavy criticism in training, but competition began with qualifying at 5 a.m. ET as originally planned with temperatures in the high 30s. There will be two qualifying heats followed by the semifinals at 10 a.m., with the top 12 riders advancing to the final at 12:30 p.m.

The previously announced change would have had riders compete only in a "semifinal," with the top 12 advancing to the final.

White has the top score after his first run in the second qualifying heat.

Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano topped the first heat with a 92.25. He qualified directly for the final, along with Switzerland's Christian Haller and David Habluetzel.

Hirano, 15, won the silver medal at X Games Aspen in 2013 and is considered one of the top contenders to prevent White's bid for a third straight gold medal.

Gregory Bretz, the only American in the first heat, scored 71.75 on his first run, good for seventh place and a spot in the semifinals.

The halfpipe didn't seem to deteriorate over the course of the first heat, as four first-heat competitors qualified for the semifinals on their second runs.

If anything, the scores were higher in the second heat. 

Taku Hiraoka matched his countryman Hirano with a 92.25 for second place, and American Danny Davis was third at 92.00 after their first runs.

Taylor Gold of the U.S. opened with an 81.50, a score that would have automatically qualified him for the final had he been in the first heat. Instead, he advanced to the semifinals after an 87.50 on his second run.

Rising temperatures wreaked havoc with the halfpipe during training.

Davis said Monday that the run needed a lot of work, while 2006 gold medalist Hannah Teter, who will compete in the women's contest Wednesday, called the halfpipe "crap."

Temperatures were expected to rise well above freezing Tuesday afternoon, worsening already slushy conditions.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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